The recent meeting between Spurs and Liverpool was controversial for a number of reasons, chiefly a terrible error by the VAR officials. However, the Reds also suffered two red cards, in a game that also witnessed a decisive 96th-minute own goal in favour of the London side. The red cards, for Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota, took Liverpool’s Premier League dismissal tally to four in just six games this term, a shocking stat.
However, our focus here is not on teams with the most red cards in the Premier League but rather players. And nor are we looking at just the 2023/24 season, instead we take a look back through the history books to see which EPL players have collected the most red cards in the competition over the years.
We would have loved to have called this feature our dirty dozen, but there are far too many players who are tied on six Premier League sendings off, including Gareth Barry, Joey Barton, Steven Gerrard, Martin Keown and John Terry, to name just five. Instead, therefore, we will focus on the, err, sinful seven, who all have at least seven Premier League dismissals to their name.
1) Duncan Ferguson – 8 Red Cards in 269 Premier League Games
The dirtiest player in PL history, at least if we go by red cards alone, is quite probably also the toughest too. Big Dunc is tied at the top with two other players who all have eight red cards but we’ll make him our numero uno as he played the fewest games. The former Everton and Newcastle centre forward appeared just 269 times, thus collecting a red card around once every 34 games.
He remains the only British footballer to be jailed for an on-pitch offence, that incident occurring in Scotland, but he also collected a whopping 40 yellow cards in the Premier League. He famously hospitalised intruders who attempted to break into his home whilst he was present, this happening on two separate occasions. By all accounts a mellow and loving individual off the pitch, at least most of the time, Ferguson was a true hard man on it. His reputation no doubt meant referees were sometimes harsh on him but equally many of his sendings off were well and truly deserved.
2) Patrick Vieira – 8 Red Cards in 307 Premier League Games
World Cup winner Patrick Vieira was sent off as many times in the Premier League as Ferguson but was actually booked almost twice as many times. The former Arsenal and Man City midfielder collected 76 yellow cards, so perhaps we should have made him our sinful-seven top dog. The Frenchman’s battles with Roy Keane were a sight to behold, two of the Premier League’s greatest-ever midfielders going head to head in a physical battle both relished. Vieira certainly had a nasty side but many of his red cards were simply the result of his fierce will to win and competitive spirit.
3) Richard Dunne – 8 Red Cards in 431 Premier League Games
If you are Richard Dunne’s family or friends look away now (not that we wouldn’t be telling you anything you probably didn’t already know), as the Irish international, another man who spent part of his career with Everton, also tops the PL charts when it comes to own goals. With 10 own goals he’s three clear of second place when it comes to that unwanted record so let’s say Dunne is third in terms of red cards. He played for Man City, Aston Villa and QPR as well as the Toffees and amassed 74 yellow cards, though he did make far more appearances than the two men who also garnered eight reds during their Premier League careers.
Joint Fourth Place – All With 7 Red Cards
We have four players who are tied on seven Premier League red cards and we will leave them as joint holders of that “honour”. First up we have Lee Cattermole, who represented England at almost every level apart from the full senior team. He primarily played for Sunderland during his career and was a tough defensive midfielder who threw himself around and was, shall we say, somewhat energetic in the tackle.
Next up we have another tough-tackling midfielder who went on to make a name for himself playing tough guys on the silver screen. Vinnie Jones was a tough player on the pitch and a tough man off it. He took no prisoners and playing an East End enforcer in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels hardly required him to extend himself too much on the acting front. Often perceived simply as a thug in football terms, there was more to him than that and he famously won the FA Cup as part of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang. He also helped Leeds United win the old Second Division. Owe, and he also grabbed Gazza by the testicles of course. If you include his pre-Premier League days, Jones is well ahead of Big Dunc for career red cards with 12.
Keane battled with Vieira and he also battled with Jones as a much younger player. This great clip illustrates just how much the game has changed, Keane barely reacting to a very late, “robust” challenge from Jones. Keane was one of the greatest players Ireland has ever produced and won so much with Man United, often dragging them to victory. Like Vieira, he had a very nasty, spiteful side, no better seen than his near-maiming revenge attack on Erling Haaland’s father. That said, many of his red cards were down to his desire to win and his fearless nature.
Alan Smith played for a trio of Uniteds, first Leeds, then Manchester, then Newcastle and showed his bravery when moving from his hometown club Leeds to their fierce rivals on the other side of the Pennines. “Smudger” joins Ferguson on this list as a striker but he was undoubtedly a nastier, spikier character than the Scot. His 285 PL appearances brought seven red cards and 61 yellows and he had the full range of card-collecting tools in his locker, from lunging tackles to swinging elbows, and referee back-chat to all-out aggression.